Daily D – John 13:16-17
“Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
JOHN 13:16-17 (CSB)
Deference is an important idea we seldom discuss and frequently ignore. It is deference that makes unity and productivity possible.
Jesus prays about our unity in John 17:21-23. It is hard to remain unified with some people. This fact does not require much exposition and illustration, does it? There are certain kinds of people each of us has a hard time relating to with patience, kindness, and deference. Learning to master our emotions and to remember that it’s never too early to shut up help us at this point.
There are other helpful tips and tricks. Consider Psalm 133:1. It says, “How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” The Message paraphrases these few powerful words this way:
How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along.
The Apostle Paul writes about how to live with one another in unity in a number of places in his letters to churches and postcards to individuals. Ephesians 5:15 and following are especially prescient. Verse 21 appears to hold together everything Paul says from verse 15 to verse 33 and even on into 16:1-9.
Take a look at different translations of this verse and notice where each places this it in the chapter. The Christian Standard Bible places verse 21 at the end of a paragraph as does the New American Standard Bible. The New International Version sets off this verse by itself as does the New Living Translation.
The Christian Standard Bible has this verse complete a long sentence beginning in verse 18 by saying, “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” The Message says, “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.”
In other words, get good at deferring.
Deference is hard to do for prideful people like you and me. Consider, however, the impact of learning to lean back when we would prefer to lean in. I lead a team of coworkers. My best leadership is most often practiced by leaning back in deference to the knowledge and wisdom of my coworkers.
Gary has a masterful grasp of financial and legal matters. I will never know what he knows and could never do what he does. I joyfully defer to him.
Troy has a masterful grasp on contemporary communication and entrepreneurship that exceeds anything I could conceive. I joyfully defer to him.
Cynthia has a masterful grasp on the power of place and possibility that bears such hope and such longing that I can only stand back with admiration. I joyfully defer to her.
Becky has a masterful grasp on connection and presence that I lean on to help me step in when I would rather step back. Her ability to hear and obey God in the moment excels anyone I know. I joyfully defer to her.
Once upon a time, a room full of tired men with dirty feet who each thought he was better than the others witnessed the One who was in the beginning with God and through whom all things were created, the very Light of the World (John 1:1-5), kneel in deference to a need to provide an example of how self-important people should learn to kneel in humble service.
Great leaders serve. Great leaders defer. If our Lord and Master kneels to serve dirty, angry, impetuous followers, so should we. Unity requires deference and service. Unity makes possible cooperation and collaboration. Unity empowers us to experience what Jesus said in John 14:12:
And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
To whom will you defer today?
I will defer to those who are better than me and to those who are in greater need than am I.
Our Father, teach me the blessing of bowing in deference. Teach me the high value of kneeling in service. Remind me often how much I require the strengths of others to become my best self. Thank you that I do not have to manage life on my own strengths and merits. Thank you that I can serve alongside such amazing people who are smarter, better, faster than me. Amen.
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Leviticus 19:32-34 “Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord. “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Luke 6:27-31 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”